Maine Shooting Range: 7 Tips for Breaking More Clays

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Pictured: guests at Camp Katahdin’s private shooting range in Patten, Maine


The clay birds launch, zipping away at an angle like a disk shaped quail fleeing for its life. You swing and fire and the bird glides away unscathed. Again.


As simple as it looks, busting clays with any regularity is not a simple task. So the next time you find yourself at the Maine shooting range, follow these tips to improve your scores and make your buddies regret betting against you.


If the gun don’t fit, you mustn’t quit

You just need to adjust it. The proper hold on a shotgun is with it shouldered solidly, your cheek on the stock and your head upright. Too often our tendency is to shoulder the gun then lower our cheek to the stock. Break that habit and you’ll instantly see your scores improve.

Why is this important? Shooting moving targets is a very visual endeavor and you need a full field of view to do it well. Try this little exercise: Stand in a room and without moving your head, follow the line of the wall from left to right where it meets the ceiling.

Then tilt your head to one side and visually follow the same path. Notice the strain this puts on your eyes? That’s what happens when you lower your head to the gun. Your eyes will naturally avoid strain and you won’t be able to track the target as well.


Pictured: guests at Camp Katahdin’s private shooting range in Patten, Maine

Center your stance

Gun mounted properly with your head upright, lean into the gun a little bit, putting extra weight on your front foot. Now close your eyes and swing the gun left to right back and forth in a wide arc. Gradually relax your swing and when you come to rest, open your eyes and note where you’re pointing.

That spot, your natural point of aim, should be more or less in the middle of the potential flight path of the clay. If it’s not, adjust your stance accordingly. That will give you the ability to swing easily without reaching the limit of your range of motion.


Use a soft focus

Our eyes can change focus from something far to something close much easier than the other way around. Use this natural tendency to your advantage on the trap range by using a “soft focus” on something distant.

Just relax your eyes and don’t really focus on anything, just kind of look that way with a sort of “thousand mile stare.”


Really see the target

Then when the bird comes out, adjust your full focus onto the target before you even move the gun. You should be able to fully see and focus on nothing but the target. By focusing on the target first, your gun will naturally follow your line of sight.

You’ll actually only see the bead of the shotgun in your peripheral vision. But you’ll learn to naturally move it where you need it and touch the trigger just as you pass through the target, busting it solidly.

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Pictured: guests at Camp Katahdin’s private shooting range in Patten, Maine

Keep moving

Hitting a moving target means you have to swing the gun to the target, then past it to build a little lead, then tap the trigger at precisely the time the lead is just right. But that’s only half of the process. To complete the shot, you MUST keep swinging.

Even though it only takes small fractions of a second for the shot to exit the barrel and travel downrange, it’s long enough for everything to get out of alignment if you stop the swing as you pull the trigger.


Get out of your head

Shooting clays is a heady game. You miss one shot and you begin to self-analyze everything. That throws off your concentration and you miss again. Now you’re frustrated. Miss again. Now you’re just mad. Then all the fundamentals go out the window right with your score and you get stuck buying the next case of beer.

To avoid this, use a “trigger thought.” Right before you call for the bird, think about something other than shooting. That will clear your mind and allow your natural instincts to guide the shot, which are far more effective than your conscious mind. Hum a song lyric or notice the incredible Maine scenery beyond your soft focus. Whatever it takes.



Mind clear, take a deep breath and as you let it out, call for the bird. This trick will force you to relax and allow your natural instincts to do the work. Relaxed shooting is better shooting. And it’s less frustrating.

Which makes outshooting your buds on the Maine shooting range just that much sweeter.

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From handguns to the heaviest rifles to busting clays with shotguns, there’s plenty of opportunity to challenge your friends. During your stay at Camp Katahdin’s Denney Lodge be sure to check out our shooting pavilion. 

Once in a while Camp Katahdin invites a small group to train with high level military trainers.  If you would like to learn more about our upcoming shooting courses.  Click here: